'I still believe NZ is safe' - husband

lessie Gotingco was a good woman, distraught husband Antonio says.The husband of Blessie Gotingco says despite the tragic circumstances of her death, the family still believe New Zealand is a safe country.

With son Vincent and daughter Bea at his side yesterday, Antonio Gotingco said he had bragged about his adopted home overseas.

"I'm sure a lot of people here in New Zealand were touched by the way my wife died, the manner that it was done, [but] I still believe that New Zealand is a safe country," he said. "In fact, I keep on bragging overseas that New Zealand is very much better in terms of safety and security than the Philippines. But it just happened to us."

He and Mrs Gotingco were childhood sweethearts, who lived next door to each other in their native Philippines. They had been married for 30 years, before the 56-year-old mother-of-three disappeared as she walked home from work on Saturday night. Her body was discovered in bush at the Birkdale-Glenfield cemetery two days later.

"She was a good mother, a very good wife, a good grandmother," a grief-stricken Mr Gotingco said.

He said they had been looking forward to celebrating their only grandchild's first birthday next month.

"We were neighbours back in the Philippines - I obeyed God's law saying, 'Love thy neighbour'," he joked. "I've known her since we were in primary school."

He praised the police who worked on the case and kept the family well informed.

"The New Zealand police are probably the best in the world. We greatly appreciate the efforts of the police, they're very professional, and they're very efficient."

The family also wanted to thank the media and the public for their support and condolences.

"Probably the cry from my family now is to give justice for my wife. In fact, I think the whole country wants that."

His call was echoed by visitors to the house yesterday.

"We were just disgusted by what happened and really did not expect that would happen," Maria Llorando said. "As friends of Blessie, we just want to have justice."

A good friend and colleague of Mrs Gotingco's said she immediately went to the cemetery when news broke a body had been found.

"There were a lot of police there, so from there I went to their house. They knew about it by then and police had told them. Police told them to be prepared for the worst."

The friend said she went to the North Shore District Court yesterday morning to see the accused.

The Tower Insurance office they worked in together was "very sombre".

The office had received emails and flowers from customers expressing their condolences, her friend said.

The Gotingcos said they had received messages of support and condolences from all over New Zealand. They plan to acknowledge that support by including a public ceremony as part of Mrs Gotingco's funeral arrangements, likely to be two or three days after a private family viewing and cremation.

Family are flying in from overseas to attend the service, which will not take place until a post mortem examination is complete.

A 27-year-old man appeared in North Shore District Court yesterday morning charged with Mrs Gotingco's murder.

He was granted name and image suppression and was remanded in custody until next month.

He stood in the dock, facing away from the public gallery and towards a wall, his arms folded. He was wearing a blue boiler suit.

The public gallery was full, and court staff said people interested in the case had waited for almost two hours to see the man who then appeared in court for only around 10 minutes.

How it unfolded

• Saturday: Blessie Gotingco fails to return home from her shift at Tower Insurance

• Sunday: Her daughter discovers her missing at 3.15am, and finds her cellphone and other belongings near their home

• Monday: Police cordon off the Eskdale Rd cemetery at 9pm

• Tuesday: A man is arrested at Monte Cassino Place. Mrs Gotingco's body removed from the cemetery

• Yesterday: A man appears in court charged with murder and is granted name suppression

 

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